Archive for the 'Mac Software' Tag

The Hit List Public Preview

Friday, January 9th, 2009

The Hit List iconPotion Factory has released a public preview of The Hit List today. The Hit List is a brand new task management app that takes a welcome departure from current offerings, combining simplicity and power in a polished user interface that never ceases to delight. While based around the concepts behind the GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology, The Hit List won’t impose a system on you and there is no requirement to understand any of those things.

The Hit List is, as the name suggests, based around lists. You can create separate lists for each set of tasks you need to manage, whether a work project, plan for a trip or anything, really. There are also some special lists such as Inbox, for collecting tasks, and Today and Upcoming to keep track of tasks, and you can create smart folders too. Lists are in outline form, a perfect way to organize your thoughts, with each task an item in the list. Tasks can have start and due dates, estimated times, tags, notes and attachments and can be organized into folders.

The Hit List screenshot

For me, what makes The Hit List stand out is how straightforward it is to use. Hit Return to create a task, and start typing. Tags are inline, prefixed by the / character, and appear as highlighted text. Context tags start with the @ character. The Hit List can also predict tags as you type.

Typing is a big part of The Hit List, and almost everything to do with creating and working with tasks can be accomplished with a number of single-character shortcut keys, such as T for today or F to file tasks. And if you’re wondering how you would ever remember all this, a Hints bar is shown along the bottom of the list and changes depending on the context. Of course, you can accomplish everything with the mouse too.

Add to this the tabbed interface, a tag browser, where tags can be organized into bundles, a contextual tag filter and cleverly implemented iCal sync and this app appears to want for nothing. Well, apart from an iPhone version, which is planned. And that’s the amazing thing: this app is feature packed, but to just look at it, you would never realize. The Hit List strikes the perfect balance between simplicity and power.

While public preview continues, you do not need a license to buy The Hit List, but at the time of writing, you can for a special price of $49.95. The normal price will be $69.95. The Hit List requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later.

Normally, I only write about Mac software I’ve had the opportunity to beta test, but with The Hit List, while that is true, the story is somewhat different. Potion Factory developer Andy Kim is a very good friend of mine, and I have watched him sculpt this application for well over a year now. I know and appreciate the time and effort he has invested in every detail, and I have looked forward to the day when he shows it to the world.

Congratulations to Andy on this release and if you’re interested in a task management application that doesn’t leave you dumbfounded, check out The Hit List from Potion Factory without delay.

Link: The Hit List Public Preview

Feeder Podcasting Tutorial

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Allison Sheridan has created a ScreenSteps (which looks very cool) tutorial on how to create a podcast feed for Feeder as part of her Podcasting on Podcasting series.

You can hear Allison give the tutorial on PoP Episode #9 (enhanced podcast) and read it on her site: Feeder Tutorial.

The Podcasting on Podcasting (PoP) series should prove very useful to budding podcasters as the entire process can be very daunting, as it covers everything from the technical side of recording equipment, software and web hosting on the one hand, and the creative aspect on the other, not to mention considerations such as time and family commitments.

Allison’s been podcasting for a long time now, and occasionally brings in other experienced contributors such as Don McAllister of the excellent ScreenCastsOnline.

The Podcasting on Podcasting series can be found as part of Allison’s main podcast, NosillaCast, at podfeet.com. Allison also contributes to the Mac Roundtable Podcast and the Mac ReviewCast.

iKanji 1.0 by ThinkMac Software

Friday, July 25th, 2008

ThinkMac Software released iKanji 1.0 yesterday. iKanji is an application for learning Japanese kanji characters on the Mac. iKanji is a companion application for iKana, which helps you learn Hiragana and Katakana.

iKanjiThinkMac developer Rory Prior is a friend of mine (hence the plug) so I got to try iKanji before its release. I’m not learning Japanese and normally wouldn’t feel comfortable writing about such applications, but both iKanji and iKana are clearly exceptional learning tools. I’ve learned so much just trying them out.

Both applications are a superb example of usability on the Mac, look great, and include the sort of thoughtfulness that surprises and delights without ever being gimmicky or patronising. Also, to my surprise, they are a lot of fun.

iKanji’s learning experience is focused around flash cards and includes 2230 kanji built-in, with the ability to add your own, and nearly 20,000 example words. It can also search by kanji, meaning, radical and examples, sort kanji by stroke count or radical, allows you to add your own notes and create your own practice sets. iKanji covers Japanese school grades 1 to 6, JLPT levels 1 to 4 and 214 kanji radicals.

Following on from that are the tests. iKanji has tests for meanings, reading and writing (complete with animated stroke animations). After taking the tests, you’ll be able to see your proficiency with gold, silver and bronze stars marked on the kanji and plotted on a graph to see your performance over time.

iKanji requires Mac OS X 10.5 is available for €20 (around US$31) and can be bought with iKana for €25 (around US$40) at the ThinkMac Software store. Rory’s also confirmed that he’ll be creating iPhone versions of these applications in the (ahem!) near future.

Together Compared

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

I’m occasionally asked if I can compare Together with its competitors or the approaches of similar applications. For all sorts of reasons, I doubt I’m the right person to ask for an opinion. However, a rummage through this web site’s referral logs revealed some interesting comparisons that have been posted recently:

A number of these point out that it’s your needs that count, and that is a crucial point. All apps have their place as they can offer something unique; any app that tries to be all things to all people is going to be a disappointment.

Fortunately you can download and try all these apps for yourself. That said, with so much choice, blog posts like the above, written by real users, can be a great starting point.

Indie Upgrade Cycles

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

There are some very insightful comments on the last post, as expected from Daring Fireball readers. Thankfully, nobody took anything personally, because it was about whether super-cheap bundles are an efficient way of gaining customers, rather than any reflection on MacZOT (or any other bundle / discount) buyers or a particular site.

One theme running through the comments that did make me wonder ran along the lines of “the lack of updates caused me to look elsewhere”. There is the irony there that the extra support work not only delayed the 1.3 release, but put a squeeze on everything else I did.

The striking thing about this complaint though, is that it’s something I’ve also heard quite a lot in support emails regarding a number of Together’s competitors. I admit that I don’t keep tabs on them, because I don’t see the point, but as far as I can tell most of these apps get updated every 3 – 6 months, with bug fix / tweaks released every month or so, just like KIT.

For example, Soukyan writes:

What bothered me was that development seemed to slow to a halt for quite some time. I realize that you were preparing the 2.0 release, but this is the problem with small developers. My license entitles me to 1.x upgrades for free, but the paradigm in software has become, release, upgrades to release.5 at the most, and then do a new release and charge for the upgrade. Whatever the reasoning behind it, I don’t mind, but I do mind when the developer seems to drop off the face of the earth. The tells me that I cannot rely on the software to be maintained for the long term.

It’s when indie developers are quiet that they’re probably working the hardest. I spent almost the entire year working on KIT/Together. Version 1.3 was released within 6 months of the bundle and 2.0 another 9 months later, soon after Leopard was released. That was a longer gap than I’d normally like to have but in the meantime, KIT was updated every month or so all the way up until October, when it was made Leopard-compatible.

Obviously Leopard’s delay, and lack of development in the meantime, impacted everything quite significantly. I started Together when Leopard was supposed to be released in late June (and some rumour sites were adamant it would be April). I opened a lot of bugs about Leopard with Apple, a number of which still haven’t been closed and had to do a lot of work twice, to work around problems.

Indie Mac apps in general have frequent free updates that add features as well as fix bugs (often within days of them being reported), and this is what sets independent developers, whether individuals or small teams, apart from the likes of big companies such as Microsoft or Adobe, who release something huge every two years and nothing in between. Even Apple only manages, at best, annual updates to their applications, with the free, minor updates offering fixes but little in the way of new functionality (one exception being iTunes, but generally this is to support new iPods/iPhone or iTunes Store initiative).

Software development takes a long time and it’s most efficient to bundle changes together. One feature may appear as a bullet point, but take many weeks to design, develop and test. Most new features will impact something else, so the repercussions of even a handful of new features can be mind-boggling. Even a release that takes 2 or 3 months can easily devour another month in support, and for all sorts of reasons.

It’s a real balancing act for developers to come up with a release that has enough in it to satisfy people’s requests, works well, and provides enough features to get the attention of new buyers in a reasonable timeframe. I generally manage to release 2 to 3 such updates a year, alternating between both of my apps, and punctuated by the more regular bug fix releases.

Because indie Mac software is pretty low-priced anyway, and full version upgrades (e.g. 2.0, 3.0) often years apart, it’s important to keep that momentum going. There comes a point though where an upgrade like that won’t cut it and you need to make some pretty large changes, and that’s when it’s time for a major new version.

I guess that in Together’s market, where there is a range of diverse competitors people seem to bounce between, and where people may also use web apps that tend to trickle out smaller changes more frequently, people’s expectations can be very high.